So far, so good - but unfortunately, the film's tagline, 'Prepare for Adventure', is something of an overstatement. The opening sequences on Elba, and a thrilling confrontation between Dantes and his betrayer, get us off to a fine start. After that, though, swashbuckling takes a back seat to cunning schemes, double crosses, and heated marital arguments. Dantes' scheme for revenge is undoubtedly clever and satisfying, but the change of pace leaves the viewer slightly frustrated. Even the final confrontation, though it offers us some action, is heavy on soap opera style revelations and convenient shifts of allegiance.
Jim Caviezel is a robust Dantes, handling prison, pirates, and the pretence of nobility with the hopeful determination of an innocent man. You do wonder how anyone stupid enough to carry a secret letter for Napoleon came up with such a complex scheme in the first place, but... Guy Pearce hams it up delightfully as the jealous Fernand, and Dagmara Dominczyk, as the object of their affections, looks attractive and vulnerable in pretty dresses - which is about all the story offers her to do. Strong supporting performances, including James Frain as an amoral magistrate and Luis Guzman as Dantes' sidekick, add depth to the narrative.
The Count Of Monte Cristo isn't quite the action-fest it claims to be, but it is a lavish, agreeable period confection that, despite the occasional clich� or transparent plot twist, maintains your interest to the end. Not exactly Douglas Fairbanks Jr, but you could do worse than spend your next rainy Saturday afternoon with this.